New Mexico marches for science

Throughout the state Saturday, activists and others marched as part of the worldwide “March for Science” that coincided with Earth Day. The largest rally in New Mexico took place in Albuquerque, at the Albuquerque Civic Plaza. In Las Cruces on Saturday morning, more than 500 people marched around downtown, then joined a rally with speakers and music. In Santa Fe, U.S. Sen. Tom Udall, a Democrat, addressed the crowd, saying that science isn’t a partisan issue and that all “policymakers need scientists so we can make good decisions.”
He also said the federal scientists, working at agencies like the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Energy and the National Institutes of Health, should “be able to do their work for the American people without worrying about political interference.”

Udall said that climate change is the “moral, political and scientific challenge of our time, and we must face it head on, aggressively.”

Albuquerque’s event featured several people wearing colorful costumes, including one person dressed as a dinosaur and a couple dressed as both the Grim Reaper and a medieval plague doctor. Jackie Coombes, a microbiologist dressed as the plague doctor, said she is worried about the consequences of the federal government cutting funding on vaccines.

New Mexicans will march for science on Saturday

On Wednesday evening, students, baby boomers, dogs, kids and organizers for the Albuquerque March for Science spread across a corner of Bataan Park, making signs, trying on yellow T-shirts and getting to know one another.  When they rally in downtown Albuquerque on Saturday, expect their protest signs to be clever. Or very nerdy. In the park, participants were drawing inspiration from Isaac Newton, Jane Goodall and Neil deGrasse Tyson. One sign read, “Einstein was a refugee.”

The nonpartisan event, which is planned for Washington, D.C. and hundreds of cities around the United States, is modeled on the Women’s March in January.

Around NM: ConocoPhillips, border wall lawsuit, NM emerges from Article 7 restrictions and more

I’ve been reporting on environment issues for almost 15 years, and during most of that time, it hasn’t exactly been a breaking news beat. There are disasters like wildfires or the Gold King Mine spill. But for the most part, covering issues like drought, climate change and energy policy doesn’t usually involve a race to deadline. It seems like that’s been changing lately, however. Part of that change is due to the Trump administration.

Partnership focuses on preventing large wildfires, their aftermath

Six years ago this June, an enormous cloud above the Jemez Mountains was visible across northern New Mexico to south of Albuquerque. Punching into the clear, blue sky, it looked like a thundercloud, or even a mushroom cloud. That day, heat from a wildfire was rising so quickly that the winds couldn’t push it away, forming a pyrocumulous cloud. By the time it was extinguished, Las Conchas Fire had burned 156,000 acres. “The first day, I remember I was in Washington D.C., and got the report it was 40 acres in size,” said Jorge Silva-Bañuelos, who is now superintendent of the Valles Caldera National Preserve.

Clean Power Plan battle rages

Last week, New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas joined a coalition to oppose the Trump administration’s attempts to delay the U.S. Court of Appeals from making a decision on the Clean Power Plan. That 2015 plan would have helped states reduce carbon emissions from power plants. Utilities, the coal industry and 24 states immediately sued to stop the plan from being implemented. The appeals court unanimously denied a motion to stay the rule, but in 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court voted 5 to 4 to issue a stay pending the appeals court decision. Then, at the end of March Trump ordered the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to review and revoke the Clean Power Plan, which would have required states to cut greenhouse gas emissions from power plants.

Around NM: Science education, nuclear waste, mineral royalties and more

As we reported on Friday, Gov. Susana Martinez vetoed the Next Generation Science Standards Act. In her message, she wrote that “the Public Education Department has already been working diligently to route the standards through the appropriate vetting process.” The governor also argued the standards don’t belong in statute because it would “make it more difficult to update science standards in response to scientific advancement in the future.”

As Matt Grubs wrote in the Santa Fe Reporter, that bill would have required the state to adopt updated, nationally-vetted benchmarks for teaching science in public schools. As Grubs wrote last week:
Supporters, like bill sponsor Rep. Andrés Romero, D-Albuquerque, agree that it’s better to let the PED change standards administratively. But no one from the state’s education agency has explained the delay in putting the NGSS into place. In 18 other states and Washington, DC, the most controversial issues surrounding Next Gen adoption have been human-caused climate change and the theory of evolution.

Youth continue legal action against federal government as temperatures continue rising

Two years ago, 21 children and teenagers sued the federal government, alleging that it had violated their constitutional rights to life, liberty and property by taking actions that cause climate change and increase its dangers. The young people, including Albuquerque-born Aji Piper, want the government to align carbon emissions reductions with what scientists say is necessary to avoid catastrophic and irreversible warming. “Going to rallies is great, speaking up is great,” said 16-year old Piper of climate activism. “But we need to get our government in on this.”

The youth say that by not cutting greenhouse gas emissions, the government has failed to protect essential public trust resources like land, air and water for future generations. The suit is led by Our Children’s Trust, an Oregon-based nonprofit, which tried to stop intervention by the fossil fuel industry in the case.

Banning guns for domestic abusers vetoed, conversion therapy ban signed among Martinez actions

Friday at noon was the deadline for Gov. Susana Martinez to act on bills. Any bills not explicitly signed or vetoed are automatically vetoed without explanation.These are called pocket vetoes. If we learn of any more actions on important bills, we will add them to this story. Previously, we wrote about her actions on the budget and the veto of the tax package. Here are some of the bills Martinez took action on today:
Senate Bill 259 – Vetoed
This bill, sponsored by Sen. Josepth Cervantes, D-Las Cruces, would have required courts to prohibit people charged with domestic abuse and who “present a credible threat” from purchasing or possessing firearms.

In her veto message, Martinez explained that judges “already have the power to prohibit individuals that are subject to a restraining order from possessing a firearm.” She added that she encourages judges to “exercise this power whenever the facts and circumstances before them require it.”

The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence denounced Martinez’s veto as “disgraceful” for defending “armed abusers” rather than protecting domestic abuse victims.

“By removing guns from domestic abusers, this law would have helped protect the lives of New Mexican women,” Coalition General Counsel Kelly Roskam said in a statement.

State gives some response to lead poisoning questions

Yesterday, we wrote about attempts to get answers from the New Mexico Department of Health about elevated lead levels in children. In December, Reuters published a map on childhood lead poisoning across the nation. The story, with an accompanying map, “Off the Charts: The thousands of U.S. locales where lead poisoning is worse than Flint,” looked at where children were tested for lead and how many had high levels of the toxic metal in their blood. Related story: State remains silent on lead poisoning data

According to Reuters, about 2.5 percent of American infants and children six years-old and younger have elevated lead levels in their blood. In Flint, a city grappling with lead contamination from its water system, 5 percent of the children screened had elevated levels.

State remains silent on lead poisoning data

In December, Reuters published a map on childhood lead poisoning across the nation. The story and accompanying map, “Off the Charts: The thousands of U.S. locales where lead poisoning is worse than Flint,” looked at where children were tested for lead and how many had high levels of the metal in their blood. Severe lead poisoning can lead to seizures, coma and death, according to the Centers for Disease Control. For children, there is no such thing as a safe exposure to lead, which causes permanent neurological damage and behavioral disorders. Even though lead paint and lead additive in gasoline were banned decades ago, the ongoing Flint, Michigan emergency highlighted that lead poisoning is still a problem in the United States.